Electrophysiological correlates of top-down attentional modulation in olfaction
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AbstractThe capacity to pay attention is important for the cognitive ability, for example, evaluating an object for its qualities. Attention can selectively prioritize the neural processes that are relevant to a given task. Neuroimaging investigations on human attention are primarily focused on vision to the exclusion of other sensory systems, particularly olfaction. Neural underpinnings of human olfactory attention are still not clearly understood. Here, we combined electroencephalographic measurements of olfactory event related potential with electrical neuroimaging to investigate how the neural responses after inhaling the same odor differ between conditions with varying levels of attention, and, in which brain areas. We examined the neural responses when participants attended to a rose-like odor of phenylethyl alcohol for evaluating its pleasantness versus its passive inhalation. Our results gathered significant evidence for attentional modulation of the olfactory neural response. The most prominent effect was found for the late positive component, P3, of olfactory event related potential within a second from the odor onset. The source reconstruction of this data revealed activations in a distributed network of brain regions predominantly in inferior frontal cortex, insula, and inferior temporal gyrus. These results suggest that the neuronal modulations from attention to olfactory pleasantness may be subserved by this network.